Study Suggests Diabetes-Related Blindness Prevented By Statins

It seems that statins may not just be a drug to help treat heart disease. It might also be a possible drug to help prevent the onset of blindness as a result of diabetes. A study conducted by researchers at the New University of Georgia found that a statin drug may help prevent blindness related to diabetes. The results of the study are published in the March edition of the journal Diabetologia.

The study conducted by Azza El-Remessy, assistant professor at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy and lead author, and her fellow researchers involved using a group of diabetic rats. The researchers found out that the statins prevent free radicals from damaging the nerves that are important for maintaining good vision.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among most diabetic patients who have had the condition for 10 to 15 years. This is brought about by excessive glucose gives way to the production of free radicals which causes the eye to release a type of protein called pro-nerve growth factor. This type of protein matures into nerve growth factor (NGF) that works to protect the retinal nerves. But the free radicals produced by excessive glucose in diabetic patients hinder the maturation of pro-NGF into NGF, which may further lead to impaired neuronal function.

The researchers made use of diabetic rats as well as isolated retinal cells cultured in high glucose. The y found out that oral treatment of diabetic rats with the drug atorvastatin helped block the formation of free radicals in the retina. This allowed the restoration of the proper levels of NGF that helped protect the neurons in the retina. “It removed the break on the pro-form nerve growth factor to develop into its mature form,” El-Remessy further added.

The drug administered orally to the diabetic rats was proportionally similar in terms of dosage levels given to humans with cardiovascular disease. “The exciting part is that there are now treatment options that are proven to be safe that can be immediately translated to patients,” according to El-Remessy.

The findings may also have considerable implications for other parts of the body where nerves are affected by diabetes and may not just be limited to the eye according to the lead author. But further studies may be needed in order to determine the effects of statins beyond vision in diabetic patients.

Source: University of Georgia. “Statins may prevent diabetic-related blindness, study suggests.” ScienceDaily 17 February 2011. 21 February 2011 <http://www.sciencedaily.comĀ­ /releases/2011/02/110217151441.htm>


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